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By Dolly Rairigh Glass

LONE-SAILOR-5-2016On Saturday, April 2, the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial was dedicated at Blue Jacket Park in the Baldwin Park community, honoring sea service men and women, and the more than 650,000 recruits that trained and graduated from Orlando’s Navy/Recruit Training Center (N/RTC). One of 14 Lone Sailor Navy Memorials in the country, it is the only one that resides on the “hallowed” ground of a former Navy base, which was the first co-ed training site for enlisted Navy men and women.

“This was a very good day for the Navy community in Central Florida,” said Bill “Roto” Reuter, president of the Central Florida Council of the Navy League (CFNL) and former commanding officer for Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division. “We’re very appreciative to both Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, and their commissioners, for their support of this endeavor, as well as so many individuals and companies that have helped bring this idea to life. In particular, I want to recognize Senior Chief (Ret) Mike Phillips, and Captain (Ret) Andy Mohler, who have spearheaded this effort since its infancy.

Team Orlando leaders are all smiles after a great event dedicating the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial. Picture from left to right are Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division Executive Officer Capt. Erik "Rock" Etz; Program Manager, Training Systems, Col. Walt Yates, Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation Commander, Brad "Critter" Crites; and finally NAWCTSD Commander, Capt. Wes Naylor.

Team Orlando leaders are all smiles after a great event dedicating the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial. Pictured from left to right are Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division Executive Officer Capt. Erik “Rock” Etz; Program Manager, Training Systems, Col. Walt Yates, Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation Commander, Brad “Critter” Crites; and finally NAWCTSD Commander, Capt. Wes Naylor. Photo Credit: Doug Schaub

Reuter continued, “It was Mike who felt that something needed to be done to recognize the military significance of the NTC, and all of us are indebted to both he and his wife, Diane, for their passion in pursuing this memorial.”

Orlando’s NTC was closed in 1999, and later redeveloped into the Baldwin Park community. In August 2015, Orlando officials announced the city council’s approval for adding the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial in the Baldwin Park community, which was named after Vietnam War era Undersecretary of the Navy, Robert H.S. Baldwin. This Memorial is a reminder of the Navy’s presence in Central Florida, as well as an expression of gratitude to those sailors who have served, are currently serving, and will serve in the United States Navy.

The Lone Sailor Navy Memorial features an embedded ship’s pier in decorative concrete, and the centerpiece is a 7-foot-tall statue called the Lone Sailor, created in 1987 by sculptor Stanley Bleifeld (1924-2011), a Navy veteran of World War II and the Navy’s official sculptor. The Sailor looks directly into the “grinder” – the drill field where recruits marched, trained, and eventually graduated. He also looks at the spot where the famous wooden training ship, USS Blue Jacket, stood for many years.

The Memorial is being built in three phases with phase one now complete. Phase two is a detailed storyboard that documents the history of the Navy in Orlando, and should be completed in a year. Phase three will include a juried competition from the arts community to design a female counterpart to the Lone Sailor bronze. It will be located on the left side of the pier.

“We want to honor our female Sailors, and especially the unique history that RTC Orlando played in pioneering the integration of women into the modern Navy,” said Andy Mohler, co-chairman for the Lone Sailor Navy Memorial and past council president.

It took about eight years for the Central Florida Council of the Navy League to achieve all of the steps to complete the memorial – including the development of a complex design, interfacing with various city officials to obtain agreements and permits, overseeing a competitive search for a contractor, and raising more than $450,000 from private and public sources.

Over $100,000 of the funds raised were through the yearly Wounded Warrior/Lone Sailor 5K/10K Run, which has also benefitted the Camaraderie Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing healing for invisible wounds of war through counseling, emotional, and spiritual support for all branches of military service members, veterans and their families.

The Central Florida Council of the Navy League is still taking orders for personalized pavers to add to those already embedded around the memorial. For more information or to buy a paver, visit their website.

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